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no choice in the matter, unless I wished to interfere very much with my own interests. We were to start in two days. If in that time we could get any one to stay at the place, very well; if not, Pomona must assume the charge. We were not able to get any one, and Pomona did assume the charge. It is surprising how greatly relieved we felt when we were obliged to come to this conclusion. The arrangement was exactly what we wanted, and now that there was no help for it, our consciences were easy.
We felt sure that there would be no danger to Pomona. Lord Edward would be with her, and she was a young person who was extraordinarily well able to take care of herself. Old John would be within call in case she needed him, and I borrowed a bull-dog to be kept in the house at night. Pomona herself was more than satisfied with the plan.
We made out, the night before we left, a long and minute series of directions for her guidance in household, garden, and farm matters, and directed her to keep a careful record of everything noteworthy that might occur. She was fully supplied with all the necessaries of life, and it has seldom happened that a young girl has been left in such a responsible and independent position as that in which we left Pomona. She was very proud of it. Our journey was ten times more delightful than we had expected it would be, and successful in every way; and yet although we enjoyed every hour of the trip, we were no sooner fairly on our way home than we became so wildly anxious to get there that we reached Rudder Grange on Wednesday, whereas we had written that we would be home on Thursday. We arrived early in the afternoon and walked up from the station, leaving our baggage to be sent in the express-waggon. As we approached our dear home we wanted to run, we were so eager to see it. There it was, the same as ever.
I lifted the gate-latch; the gate was locked. We ran to the carriage-gate; that was locked too. Just then I noticed a placard on the fence; it was not printed, but the lettering was large, apparently made with ink and a brush. It read
To BE SOLD
We stood and looked at each other. Euphemia turned pale. What does this mean?” said I. " Has
our landlord -?"
I could say no more. The dreadful thought arose that the place might pass away from us. We were not yet ready to buy it. But I did not put the thought in words. There was a field next to our lot, and I got over the fence and helped Euphemia over. Then we climbed our side-fence. This was more difficult, but we accomplished it without thinking much about its difficulties ; our hearts were too full of painful apprehensions. I hurried to the front door; it was locked. All the lower windows were shut. We went around to the kitchen. What surprised us more than anything else was the absence of Lord Edward. Had he been sold ?
Before we reached the back part of the house Euphemia said she felt faint and must sit down. I led her to a tree near by, under which I had made a rustic chair. The chair was gone. She sat on the grass, and I ran to the pump for some water. I looked for the bright tin dipper which always hung by the pump. It was not there. But I had a travelling-cup in my pocket, and as I was taking it out I looked around me. There was an air of bareness over everything. I did not know what it all meant, but I know that my hand trembled as I took hold of the pump-handle and began to pump.
At the first sound of the pump-handle I heard a deep
bark in the direction of the barn, and then furiously around the corner came Lord Edward.
Before I had filled the cup he was bounding about me. I believe the glad welcome of the dog did more to revive Euphemia than the water. He was delighted to see us, and in a moment up came Pomona, running from the barn. Her face was radiant too. We felt relieved. Here were two friends who looked as if they were neither sold nor ruined.
Pomona quickly saw that we were ill at ease, and before I could put a question to her she divined the cause. Her countenance fell.
“You know,” said she, “you said you wasn't comin' till to-morrow. If you only had come then I was goin' to have everything just exactly right-an' now you had to climb in
And the poor girl looked as if she might cry, which would have been a wonderful thing for Pomona to do.
“Tell me one thing,” said I. What about those taxes?"
"Oh, that's all right,” she cried. " Don't think another minute about that. I'll tell you all about it soon. But come in first, and I'll get you some lunch in a minute.”
We were somewhat relieved by Pomona's statement that it was “all right” in regard to the tax-poster, but we were very anxious to know all about the matter. Pomona, however, gave us little chance to ask her any questions.
As soon as she had made ready our lunch she asked us, as a particular favour, to give her three-quarters of an hour to herself, and then, said she, “I'll have everything looking just as if it was to-morrow.”
We respected her feelings, for, of course, it was a great disappointment to her to be taken thus unawares, and we remained in the dining-room until she appeared, and announced that she was ready for us to go about. We availed ourselves quickly of the privilege, and Euphemia hurried to the chicken-yard, while I bent my steps toward the garden and barn. As I went out I noticed that the rustic chair was in its place, and passing the pump I looked for the dipper. It was there. I asked Pomona about the chair, but she did not answer as quickly as was her habit.
“Would you rather,” said she, “ hear it altogether, when you come in, or have it in little bits, head and tail, all of a jumble ?”
I called to Euphemia and asked her what she thought, and she was so anxious to get to her chickens that she said she would much rather wait and hear it altogether. We found everything in perfect order,-the garden was even free from weeds, a thing I had not expected. If it had not been for that cloud on the front fence, I should have been happy enough. Pomona had said it was all right, but she could not have paid the taxes-however, I would wait; and I went to the barn.
When Euphemia came in from the poultry-yard, she called me and said she was in a hurry to hear Pomona's account of things. So I went in, and we sat on the side porch, where it was shady, while Pomona, producing some sheets of foolscap paper, took her seat on the upper step.
“I wrote down the things of any account what happened,” said she, “ as you told me to, and while I was about it, I thought I'd make it like a novel. It would be jus' as true, and p'r’aps more amusin’. I suppose you don't mind ?” No, we didn't mind.
So she went on. “I haven't got no name for my novel. I intended to think one out to-night. I wrote this all of nights. And I don't read the first chapters, for they tell about my birth and my parent-age, and my early adventures. I'll just come down to what happened to me while you was away, because you'll be more anxious to hear about that. All that's written here is true, jus' the same as if I told it to you, but
I've put it into novel language because it seems to come easier to me.”
And then, in a voice somewhat different from her ordinary tones, as if the “novel language" demanded it, she began to read
“Chapter Five. The Lonely house and the Faithful friend. Thus was I left alone. None but two dogs to keep me com-pa-ny. I milk-ed the lowing kine and water-ed and fed the steed, and then, after my fru-gal repast, I closed the man-si-on, shutting out all re-collections of the past and also foresights into the future. That night was a me-mor-able one. I slept soundly until the break of morn, but had the events transpired which afterward occur-red, what would have hap-pen-ed to me no tongue can tell. Early the next day nothing hap-pened. Soon after breakfast the vener-able John came to bor-row some ker-o-sene oil and a half a pound of sugar, but his attempt was foil-ed. I knew too well the in-sid-i-ous foe. In the very out-set of his vil-li-an-y I sent him home with a empty can. For two long days I wan-der-ed amid the ver-dant pathways of the garden and to the barn, whenever and anon my du-ty called me, nor did I ere neg-lect the fowlery. No cloud o'er-spread this happy peri-od of my life. But the cloud was ri-sing in the horizon, although I saw it not.
“It was about twenty-five minutes after eleven, on the morning of a Thursday, that I sat pondering in my mind the ques-ti-on what to do with the butter and the veg-etables. Here was butter, and here was green corn and limabeans and trophy mats, far more than I ere could use. And here was a horse, idly cropping the fol-i-age in the field, for as my employer had advised and order-ed, I had put the steed to grass. And here was a waggon, none too new, which had it the top taken off, or even the curtains roll-ed up, would do for a li-cen-sed vendor. With the